RIYADH - For Saudi Arabia, the war against Syrian President Bashar Assad is a vital struggle for the future of the Middle East that must be fought - but not by its own young men.
Alarmed by how jihadi veterans back home from Afghanistan and Iraq joined an al-Qaida uprising a decade ago, Riyadh is now trying to halt recruitment of Saudis to the militant cause, even as it funds and arms rebels in Syria.
The government and clerics are pushing their message in both the media and the mosque: Saudis who join radical groups such as Islamic State will get sucked into a jihadist experience that is ugly and futile.
Local media have highlighted the case of Fahd al-Zaidi, a Saudi who said he was duped into joining a war against fellow Sunni Muslims instead of fighting for their freedom.
"Anyone who dared to question the Islamic State would be put in isolation and prevented from contacting others," he said in comments reported in the local Arab News and carried widely by other Saudi media. "We spent days and nights wondering how we allowed ourselves to be fooled by a bunch of conmen."